How to Understand User Behavior With Google Analytics

How to Understand User Behavior With Google Analytics

Urchin is the software company and technology that Google acquired in April 2005 that went on to become Google Analytics. Marketing Land reported, “In 2012, then-Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora said more than 10 million websites used Google Analytics — the last official update that we’re aware of from Mountain View.” Considering that nearly 80% of searchers use Google, there is a pretty good chance the majority of site owners are interested in Google’s data. So, what can Google Analytics tell us about search behavior? Specifically, I want to look at several factors: How you can use the wealth of data in Google Analytics to find trends Ways to interpret what that data means with regard to search behavior Methods to plan your course of action based on that data How search intent influences search behavior Search intent refers to the reason why a user performs a search. An example might be someone searching for “best chicago pizza near me” or “how to check in for a southwest flight.” How do you determine which intent an organic user had when they found their way to your site? Search intent is one of the most powerful factors when it comes to leveraging search behavior on your site because it answers the question “why?” Why are users searching for information about your industry? The effect of demographics on search behavior Another factor that can change user’s search behavior is demographics, or who your site visitors actually are, including age, gender, location, and interests. Psychographic information, such as interests, activities, and preferred content types Behavior, including search intent, device, and language It is important to note at this point that you might have more than one user persona. You can start by asking a few questions based on the data you pull: Are people of a certain age not moving from informational intent to transactional intent? Here are a few good resources for finding and creating Google Analytics reports: If you are looking for ways to improve your website’s performance, digging into search behavior is a fascinating place to start.

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user behavior

Between conferences, speaking engagements, and trips for work, I spend a lot of time on planes.

One of my favorite parts about flying is the disconnect.

My phone won’t ring. I don’t get any messages. I don’t check my email.

I can’t even Google the movie what’s-his-name starred in back in the early 2000s!

Unless I have Internet access. (Which I sometimes do.)

I like the quiet. It gives my brain a chance to wander.

Often, I end up musing over marketing stuff.

That’s probably because I spend a lot of time talking, writing, and speaking about digital marketing.

A lot of times, I end up thinking about the psychology of search, including why and how it works.

To me, one of the most fascinating aspects of search marketing is the why.

What happens in a user’s mind between, “Hey, wasn’t that actor in some movie in the ‘90s where he had weird eyes?” and the moment when they type a question into a search engine?

To me, it’s fascinating.

For what it is worth, the movie I was trying to think of was Pitch Black, which I later found.

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From an analysis perspective, finding and sorting all the data that contributes to search behavior is a massive undertaking.

Luckily, Google was up to the job, giving us Google Analytics in 2005.

Who better to give us search data than the search giant itself?

According to Brian Clifton, GA all began with a software called Urchin.

Urchin is the software company and technology that Google acquired in April 2005 that went on to become Google Analytics. Urchin software remains a product in its own right and is a downloadable software tool that runs on a local server (Unix and Windows) providing web analytics reports by processing web server log files – including HYBRID log files – which are the most accurate.

Today, Google Analytics is likely the most-used web analytics program in the world, though Google stopped releasing exact usage numbers in 2012.

Marketing Land reported, “In 2012, then-Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora said more than 10 million websites used Google Analytics — the last official update that we’re aware of from Mountain View.”

Considering that nearly 80% of searchers use Google, there is a pretty good chance the majority of site owners are interested in Google’s data.

In addition to having access to a massive amount of data, Google Analytics is also free, making it a top choice for site owners.

So, what can Google Analytics tell us about search behavior?

As it turns out, quite a bit.

What is search behavior?

Here’s my definition.

Search behavior refers to the set of actions a person takes when formulating and inputting a search engine query.

More simply, search behavior encompasses the factors, both internal and external, that affect how a person formulates the question they type into a search engine.

For example, I was visiting Chicago a few weeks ago and decided I wanted to try the famous Chicago pizza.

I asked Siri, “What is the best Chicago pizza place near me?”

These are the answers I got:

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The use of voice search, the fact that I knew I could say “near me,” and Siri would know what I meant, the use of casual language — all of these are search behaviors.

So, what affects search behavior?

Dozens of factors impact search behavior, but the most useful from an SEO perspective include the following.

  1. Search intent, meaning the reason why the search occurs. These include navigational, informational, and transactional. (I’ll dig into each of these later.)
  2. Demographics like age, gender, location, income, and education
  3. Technology changes, such as the rise of voice search and the increase of mobile phone usage
  4. Language usage, such as the rise of the term ‘smart phone’ or shifts in slang usage

Let’s use the Chicago pizza example above and look at how each of these factors affected my search behavior.

My search intent is both informational and transactional. I am looking for an address and likely the hours of a restaurant’s operation — hence the ‘near me’ addition to my query — but I am also ready to spend money, making it transactional.

Looking at demographics, the fact I am a 32-year-old male who works in the tech industry means I am less likely to be price sensitive and more likely to choose a location based on reviews.

Technology changes have made it so I can use voice search with a conversational tone.

My language choice included the phrase ‘chicago pizza,’ which is not a reference to the city itself, but the type of deep dish pizza popular in Chicago.

All of these factors contributed to the way I performed my search.

You can spend hours writing the best content and optimizing it. However, if you don’t know why your customers end up on your site, you are missing a huge piece of the puzzle.

So, I want to dig into more of the psychology behind how we search and what that means for site owners.

Specifically, I want to look at several factors:

  • How you can use the wealth of data in Google Analytics to find trends
  • Ways to interpret what that data means with regard to search behavior
  • Methods to plan your course of action based on that data

How search intent influences search behavior

Search intent refers to the reason why a user performs a search.

You’re probably familiar with the three main types of search intent:

  1. Navigational queries happen when a searcher is seeking a specific site. For example, someone might search for “facebook” or “amazon.”
  2. Informational queries happen when a searcher is looking for informational answers to questions or researching a specific topic. For example, someone might search “how many harry potter movies are there” or “substitutes for rice wine vinegar.”
  3. Transactional queries happen when a searcher is looking to perform a conversion action, such as purchasing a product, finding the address of…

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